Critics slam Liberals over prescription drug cost ‘concession’ in trade pact

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OTTAWA — The Trudeau government is being urged to do everything possible to mitigate the impact of allowing brand name pharmaceutical companies to shield their drug patents for an additional two years in Canada.

The move to extend so-called “market exclusivity” for high-class biologic drugs to 10 years from eight is contained in the newly-minted United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The medications, increasingly prescribed in Canada, are frequently used to treat debilitating conditions including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association President Jim Keon says allowing drug companies to keep data to themselves for an additional two years is a “step away” from an affordable national pharmacare plan — something the Liberals are currently studying.

NDP health critic Don Davies says the decision is a “mistake” that will prolong higher drug costs for provinces, territories, employers and employees who cost share drug plans.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week the government will continue to work with provinces, territories and partners to lower drug prices and provide access to medicine, adding it is a “crucial issue.”

The Canadian Press